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Trophoblast Research
Cell Stem Cell Cover Art 

 Dr. Yasuhiro Takashima and his team at CiRA show that naïve iPS cells, resembling the inner cell mass of human blastocysts can be induced to form all the stages that mimic early placenta development in humans.

The paper and related press release can be seen at the following links.

(CiRA press release )

(Cell Stem Cell )

 It has been years to provide some illustrations requested by Shingo Io, a gynecologist at the Takashima lab. They have been generating high pluripotent iPS cells, called naïve iPS cells and trying to capture early placenta development which was extremely challenging since iPS cells were thought be less pluripotent to generate placenta. I was very excited to know that they finally succeeded in developing the placenta development model in vitro and ready for a publication. I was more than happy to provide a graphical abstract and a cover art for their research.

Graphical abstract of the paper. Rough sketch (left) and final version (right).

Summary illustration used for a press release. Naïve and primed PSCs (iPS cells and embryonic stem cells) represent different periods in development (before and after the embryo implants itself into the uterus). Naïve PSCs can become all the major cell components that make up the villi, which goes on to become the placenta. Primed PSCs cannot and instead form cells that lead to the amnion.


Cell Stem Cell Cover Submission


 The origins of the placenta are attributed to the region known as the "trophoblast", which was located outer edge of developing cells, like whipped cream decorated on the rim of a cake. I thought it would be lovely to show trophoblast and other cell developments using whipped cream, fruits and candies. 

Two versions of rough ideas. We decided to go for the right one.

Traditionally illustrated by colored pencils. It was time consuming, but I wanted to make it look like "hand-made"

 It was really fun to illustrate cup cakes as developing cells,  fruits as cores of each cell, ruby chocolate as a part of placenta. Without the knowledge, this illustration could look like a cover of a cooking book, I decided to put chocolate writing "trophoblast" on the plate.

A finished Cover Art (with official Cell Stem Cell logo.) We submitted the cover art with black color logo, but the journal changed the color to wine red, which makes the cover even more lovely.

The official legend of the art, as published by Cell Stem Cell, is as follows: “Trophoblasts are extraembryonic cells that are essential to maintain pregnancy. Human trophoblasts arise from trophectoderm (TE). In this issue, Io et al. (1023–1039) show that naive human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) recapitulate trophoblast development. They succeeded in establishing an in vitro model for the differentiation of naive human PSCs into trophoblast lineage from TE. In related studies in this issue, Guo et al. (1040–1056) show that naive hPSCs differentiate into trophectoderm, and Yanagida et al. (1016–1022) build on those findings in naive cells to generate human blastocyst-like structures comprising the three founding tissue layers for the extraembryonic membranes and the embryo. In the cover image, a researcher is piping cake borders, which indicate TE. The ruby chocolate branches on the top suggest chorionic villi of the placenta and the surrounding cupcakes suggest cell development. The idea of cake making is inspired by the etymology of the word “placenta,” which in Latin means “a cake.” Cover art by Misaki Ouchida.”

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